RIDE SMART:

Will au­ton­o­mous auto tech help you see me now?

Cycle World - - Contents -

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion (NHTSA), 54 per­cent of fa­tal mo­tor­cy­cle ac­ci­dents in­volve col­li­sions with other ve­hi­cles—which most of the time are at fault. Per­haps that’s be­cause tra­di­tion­ally, avoid­ing mo­tor­cy­clists has been done old-school, re­quir­ing driv­ers to take care and watch out—a seem­ing rar­ity on to­day’s roads. For­tu­nately, though, driv­ers now have help avail­able, as car­mak­ers are be­gin­ning to em bed au­to­mated ac­ci­den­tavoid­ance tech­nol­ogy into their ve­hi­cles.

Typ­i­cally, cam­eras and sen­sors con­nect with ECUS, an­nun­ci­a­tors, and ac­tu­a­tors to au­to­mat­i­cally scan for col­li­sion threats, warn the driver, and even ini­ti­ate steer­ing or brak­ing ac­tions to avert un­wanted con­tact… such as with you and your Fat Boy. This is wel­come progress for mo­tor­cy­clists be­cause with our sober­ing 29-times greater fa­tal­ity risk com­pared to car driv­ers, we need ev­ery ad­van­tage.

Dis­ap­point­ingly, the tech­nol­ogy is rolling out grad­u­ally, and of course the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of ve­hi­cles on the road don’t have it. Also of con­cern, few com­pa­nies specif­i­cally claim their tech­nol­ogy iden­ti­fies mo­tor­cy­cles, though sev­eral read­ily state it can iden­tify pedes­tri­ans, bi­cy­clists, and even noc­tur­nal an­i­mals (think moose, not mole sized). This brings up a ques­tion: Are mo­tor­cy­clists more or less at risk than a cy­clist or a deer? I’d ar­gue equal, at the very least.

So while the au­ton­o­mous car tech­nolo­gies sort them­selves out, here are some of the more laud­able ad­vance­ments that may al­ready be shar­ing the road around you.

NIGHT VI­SION: Us­ing in­frared beams and cam­eras, cars from Audi, BMW, Cadil­lac, Mercedes-benz, and Volvo high­light pedes­tri­ans, cy­clists, and/or an­i­mals real time on the in­stru­ment panel at night. Since bi­cy­clists and mo­tor­cy­clists can have sim­i­lar shapes, the tech­nol­ogy may also de­tect mo­tor­cy­clists.

AU­TO­MATIC EMER­GENCY

BRAK­ING: The In­sur­ance In­sti­tute for High­way Safety (IIHS) makes au­ton­o­mous brak­ing manda­tory for toprated ve­hi­cles. Us­ing cam­eras and radar, such sys­tems scan for dan­ger­ous clos­ing rates, such as a ve­hi­cle (maybe you!) up ahead, then au­to­mat­i­cally ap­ply the brakes.

BLIND-SPOT WARN­ING: Ever been pushed out of your free­way lane by Mr. Ma­goo? Blind-spot warn­ing sys­tems in­form fee­ble driv­ers of ve­hi­cles (in­clud­ing mo­tor­cy­cles) in their blind spot, us­ing vis­i­ble and/or au­di­ble alerts. Lane-watch sys­tems fur­ther dis­play an im­age of the hid­den right-hand lane on-screen.

CHOOSE YOUR TRAF­FIC: Tech­nol­ogy that fore­warns driv­ers of vul­ner­a­ble and hard-to-see road users (e.g., bik­ers) is al­ready here. But as roll­out is grad­ual and gen­er­ally on pre­mium prod­ucts, to stay safe, per­haps strive to blend with new, high-end cars—not the old beat­ers.

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